Volunteers and stream cleanup organizers from across the state recently met in Atlanta to celebrate the accomplishments of the state’s largest volunteer cleanup program, Rivers Alive. The Rivers Alive awards honor the efforts of individuals and groups who are working to improve Georgia’s waterways, one trash bag at a time. Volunteers wade into rivers, lakes and coastal waters each fall as part of the continuing statewide campaign to clean and preserve more than 70,000 miles of Georgia waterways.
The Rivers Alive awards ceremony, held on April 15, at Zoo Atlanta, recognized groups of volunteers, as well as individuals and businesses for their efforts in 2013. The Confluence award, which recognizes successful community partnerships, was awarded to organizers of the annual Conasauga River Watershed Cleanup event. Confluence, defined as the flowing together of two or more streams, or rivers, clearly describes the coming together of local organizations for one purpose. The members of the organizing committee for the annual cleanup are Jeff Carrier (Carpet & Rug Institute), Dirk Verhoeff (Conasauga River Alliance & Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority), Gretchen and John Lugthart (Dalton State College), Phillip Pfeifer and David Oxford (Dalton Utilities), Sandy Adams (Keep Chatsworth-Murray Beautiful), Liz Swafford (Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful), Josh Smith and Dan Huser (Limestone Valley RC & D), Brenda Jackson (Murray County Extension), Katie Owens (The Nature Conservancy), and Chris Hester (Whitfield County).
“This is certainly an appropriate award for our group,” said John Lugthart, one of the organizers and a Dalton State professor of biology. “We have a great team of people, all of whom are committed to educating our community about the importance of protecting our local streams and the Conasauga River. We are coming up on our 20th annual cleanup and are still going strong!”
During the 2013 watershed cleanup 258 volunteers from Whitfield and Murray Counties removed trash, debris, and invasive plants from seven sites in the two counties. Overall, volunteers collected and removed 8,329 pounds of trash and 37 tires.
Funding sponsors for the 2013 event included: Shaw Industries, J&J Industries, Dalton Utilities, Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority, The Nature Conservancy, and the Conasauga River Alliance.
At the state level, during the 2013 Cleanup, 27,679 volunteers cleaned more than 1,800 miles of waterways and removed over 500,000 pounds of trash and recyclables, including car parts, grocery carts, luggage, basketballs, TVs, sinks, bicycles, tires and plastic bottles. Rivers Alive is a program of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division. “Rivers Alive cleanups provide important opportunities for citizens to make a big difference while volunteering just a few hours of their time,” said EPD Director Jud Turner. “Citizens return home with a greater awareness of how our everyday choices impact our environment.”